(1) After we agreed on the environmental indemnities, the negotiations moved more smoothly. The resolution of the hold-back reserve took hours and was far from smooth.
(2) After we agreed on the environmental indemnities, the negotiations moved more smoothly. What was far from smooth were the hours it took to resolve the hold-back reserve.
When you insert “what” and a form of “be” – either “is,” “was,” “are” or “were” – in the second sentence you convey more clearly the contrast between it’s point and the point of the preceding sentence. What you also gain is a tighter link between the two sentences.